Former Production Car World Rally Champion Niall McShea will be re-united with the PROTON R3 Rally Team on the Barum Czech Rally Zlin later this month, where he will be joined in the all-star team by reigning British Rally Champion Keith Cronin.

As you would expect from a world champion, McShea has a wealth of experience and speed at the sport's highest level. His last outing was with PROTON on last year's Rally Ireland. Despite only having limited testing in the Satria Neo S2000, McShea stunned the watching world with third fastest time on the opening stage. McShea and the Satria were 15 seconds faster than multiple world champion Sebastien Loeb on the 22-kilometre Glenboy test. In an instant, McShea and PROTON had hit the headlines. Since Rally Ireland last season, the likeable McShea has kept in contact with the MEM team, which runs PROTON's IRC campaign, with a view to returning to the drivers' seat of the Satria. That opportunity has arrived.

With McShea bringing worldwide experience, his PROTON team-mate in Zlin, Keith Cronin brings youth. Cronin was crowned British Rally Championship at the age of 23 last season. And now, a year on, having also won the Pirelli Star Driver programme of a funded season in Britain, he's making a solid fist of a title defence, with two wins from the four rounds run so far.

McShea and Cronin will test the Satria Neo S2000s before the Barum Czech Rally Zlin, honing the PROTON's set-up for the challenging asphalt stages ahead of them.

PROTON's regular Asia Pacific Rally Championship crews Alister McRae and Chris Atkinson will return for the team's next APRC outing, the Rally of Indonesia next month.

The Zlin-based round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge starts on Friday August 27, with a superspecial stage comprising three laps of the city centre. The main action on this hugely popular event starts the next day, when crews face eight asphalt stages in the fast but technical lanes surrounding Zlin. The event ends on Sunday afternoon (August 29) after a further eight stages. This is the 40th anniversary of the event, which also qualifies for the European Rally Championship. The two PROTONs will face stiff competition from IRC favourite Jan Kopecky; the Czech driver won for Skoda last season, delivering the result the 265,000 fans had waited eight years to see: a local driver in a local car leading the way.

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
"I think everybody was impressed with what Niall [McShea] did on what was pretty much the first time out for the PROTON Satria in Ireland last year. Lying third overall in atrocious conditions on a round of the World Rally Championship after just a handful of test kilometres was an amazing effort and a precise reflection of the car's potential. We've stayed in touch with Niall, he's done some testing for us in the development of the Satria and we wanted to put him in the car for an IRC round this season, Zlin fits perfectly. And, when you're looking at an asphalt rally, it's hard to ignore Keith Cronin. He's a British champion and one of the hottest young talents around. His asphalt form is pretty sharp too, he's just won International Rally Isle of Man, an event acknowledged to be one of the toughest asphalt events in the world."

Niall McShea said:
"When I first drove the PROTON Satria last season, I could hardly contain myself. It's an amazing car and I'm delighted to have this opportunity to drive it again. I always felt there was some unfinished business after we ran so well early in Rally Ireland last year. I've been busy testing and developing cars recently, so I'm feeling pretty much match-fit and ready to go. It's great to be back working with Chris and the whole PROTON team again."

Keith Cronin said:
"I got a taste of Super 2000 rallying on last year's Rally of Scotland, so to be offered the chance to drive one of frontline S2000 cars on a round of the IRC was an incredible opportunity for me. Niall has told me about the car and I can't wait to get in it and drive it. Obviously, it's quite different to the Group N cars I've been driving in the British Rally Championship for the last couple of years, but it won't take me long to get to grips with the PROTON. This is a gilt-edged chance for me, and I intend to make the most of it." 
Get full, exclusive access for only $6.55/month.
  • Full access
  • Exclusive news
  • Store & Tour discounts

Show Your Support


Recent Posts